The maintenance of water balance in arid environments might represent a formidable challenge for Chiroptera, since they have high surface-to-volume ratios. In deserts, bats conserve water, for example, using daily torpor, but they also might experience episodic heat bouts, when they may need to increase total evaporative water loss (TEWL) to thermoregulate. We hypothesized that in bats, habitat aridity and its variability determine a trade-off between water conservation and thermoregulation via evaporative means. To test this hypothesis, we collated data from the literature of 22 species of bats on TEWL, body temperature and resting metabolic rate, in torpor and euthermy. We also collected data on ambient temperature (Ta) and precipitation of the locations where bats were captured, calculated an aridity index, and built an index of variability of the environment. After correcting for phylogeny, we found that, as aridity and variability of the environment increased, bats had lower values of TEWL, but the rate at which TEWL increases with Ta was higher, supporting our hypothesis. These results suggest that at high Ta there is a trade-off between water conservation and evaporative heat loss in bats. The evolution of physiological mechanisms that allow water conservation and tolerance to conditions of high Ta without access to free water might thus be crucial to explain the distribution of desert bats.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Journal of Comparative Physiology B: Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology|
|State||Published - 1 Mar 2022|
- Total evaporative water loss
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology